TRAVERSE CITY — Newly released statistics affirm what many northern Michigan business leaders already know: manufacturing is witnessing a strong comeback.
The Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget reports that from October 2012 to August 2013 the state gained 17,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector, an increase of 3.1 percent.
Kurt Weiss, a state budget analyst, said 2,000 manufacturing jobs in Michigan were added from September to October this year.
“Obviously, there are a lot of factors at play here,” Weiss said. “From the administration’s perspective, some of the policies put in place, from the repeal of the Michigan business tax to the fact that the auto industry is turning around and doing well, are playing roles. Also, the fact that Michigan is no longer losing population — we are gaining population — speaks to the comeback that Michigan is making.”
The manufacturing sector rebound was a hot topic last week at the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Economic Outlook gathering. More than 500 business leaders from across the region were told the state now leads the nation in manufacturing job creation.
Janie McNabb, director of the Northwest Michigan Works program, said the job training and placement program run by the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments is receiving steady inquiries from manufacturers looking for workers to hire.
“Big demand,” said McNabb. “A large portion of our customer base is in manufacturing, and they are reaching out to us all the time asking for skilled workers.”
McNabb said the Northwest Council of Governments is working with economic development leaders, educational institutions, government agencies and others to provide more manufacturing training to northern Michigan residents.
“Right now we are working with manufacturers to access a new funding source called the Skilled Trades Training Fund (that offers) $10 million across the state,” McNabb said. “We’ve been awarded four grants across the region, and it’s really about training manufacturing workers to meet the needs of local employers so they have the capacity to meet their business needs.”
Statewide, the most recent unemployment figures remain flat. Michigan’s 10-month 2013 average unemployment rate of 8.7 percent remains slightly below the 2012 annual rate of 9.1 percent. The state reports that although Michigan’s jobless rate increased by over half a percentage point since the late spring, total employment in the state remained steady, while the workforce has grown. Michigan’s labor force rose by 79,000 or 1.7 percent since October 2012.